from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A tissue composed of fibers capable of contracting to effect bodily movement.
  • n. A contractile organ consisting of a special bundle of muscle tissue, which moves a particular bone, part, or substance of the body: the heart muscle; the muscles of the arm.
  • n. Muscular strength: enough muscle to be a high jumper.
  • n. Informal Power or authority: put some muscle into law enforcement.
  • intransitive v. To make one's way by or as if by force: muscled into the conversation.
  • transitive v. To move or force with strength: muscled legislation through Congress.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A contractile form of tissue which animals use to effect movement.
  • n. An organ composed of muscle tissue.
  • n. A well-developed physique, in which the muscles are enlarged from exercise.
  • n. Strength.
  • n. Hired strongmen or bodyguards.
  • v. To use force to make progress, especially physical force.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n.
  • n. An organ which, by its contraction, produces motion.
  • n. The contractile tissue of which muscles are largely made up.
  • n. Muscular strength or development.
  • n. See Mussel.
  • n. An essential part of something.
  • n. Bodyguards or other persons hired to provide protection or commit violence.
  • transitive v. To compel by threat of force.
  • transitive v. To moved by human force.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A kind of animal tissue consisting of bundles of fibers whose essential physiological characteristic is contractility, or the capability of contracting in length and dilating in breadth on the application of a proper stimulus, as the impulse of a motor nerve, or a shock of electricity; flesh; “lean meat.”
  • n. A certain portion of muscle or muscular tissue, having definite position and relation with surrounding parts, and usually fixed at one or both ends.
  • n. A part, organ, or tissue, of whatever histological character, which has the property of contractility, and is thus capable of motion in itself.
  • n. Figuratively, muscular strength; brawn: as, a man of muscle.
  • n. See the adjectives.
  • n. See mussel.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. authority or power or force (especially when used in a coercive way)
  • n. animal tissue consisting predominantly of contractile cells
  • n. possessing muscular strength
  • n. one of the contractile organs of the body
  • n. a bully employed as a thug or bodyguard
  • v. make one's way by force


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

Middle English, from Old French, from Latin mūsculus, diminutive of mūs, mouse; see mūs- in Indo-European roots.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From French muscle, from Latin mūsculus ("a muscle", literally "little mouse"), because of the mouselike appearance of some muscles, from Ancient Greek μῦς (mus, "mouse, muscle, mussel"). Cognate with Old English mūs ("mouse", also "muscle"). More at mouse.



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  • There is a similar correspondance in the Slavic languages between muscles and mice, e.g. Russian мышца (myshtsa, "muscle") / мышь (mysh', "mouse"); and Slovene mišica ("muscle") / miš ("mouse"), where the suffixes -tsa, -ica form diminutives.

    December 5, 2009

  • Latin musculus is a homonym meaning both muscle and a small mouse. The same semantics are found in Greek pontiki. But the Greek mouse was derived from "mus Ponticus", mouse from the Pontus region, where Pontus was the biceps on a male anthropomorphic map. The etymology of muscle is unrelated to mouse. It is related to concepts such as weight, mass, and massage. It is probably related to Semitic mem-sin-aleph, lifting up, burden, load at a time when the aleph still had a chs-sound, and to mem-shin-kuf-lamed MiSHKaL weight. If you lift weights, you will develop your muscles. If you have a lot of muscle, you can lift / carry / pull a lot of weight.

    Israel "izzy" Cohen

    June 10, 2009

  • "Muscle" stems from the word mouse. People believed watching muscles move looked like a mouse crawling under the skin.

    May 7, 2008